Content During Covid: Ohio Tropics

We’ve said this many times, but our Mediavine publishers are amazing, even in the midst of a global pandemic!

Instead of giving up during these challenging times, they doubled down. They listened to their readers, continued to be visible, updated old posts, created new content and more — all while using their expertise to help others learn and grow. 

Much like our Publisher Interview series, our new Content During Covid series also shares success stories of how our MVPs started their blogs, their top traffic sources, plus the ways Mediavine has helped shape their businesses and personal lives for the better.

The difference is that this series focuses on how our MVPs’ content strategy has changed during this time, the helpful and relevant content they’ve created and their increased site traffic. 

Get ready for us to share some motivating success stories from our over 6,700 and constantly growing list of publishers.

Join us for our first interview with Raffaele of the site Ohio Tropics, a blog that is a one-stop shop to learning all about houseplant care! Whether you are a complete beginner or a seasoned grower, there is something for everyone. 

We are happy to have Raffaele on the blog, so please say aloe and lettuce learn about how his goals of solving his readers’ problems has helped him create a garden of traffic that is quickly growing! (See what we did there?)

Raffaele Di Lallo of Ohio Tropics

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and your everyday life.

I live in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with my husband and two dogs, Wolfie and Chewie. I’m a chemical engineer by degree and my full time job is working as a continuous improvement professional. In that role I help to improve business processes and also teach problem solving and decision making.

When I’m not working my full time job, I work on my blog in the evenings and weekends. (OK… that’s still work!) I enjoy cooking, gardening, playing the piano and of course growing houseplants, which is the topic of Ohio Tropics!

How did you get started blogging?

It all started out about 3 years ago with a phone call from a friend. She had just moved from Salt Lake City to Cleveland, and announced that I should start a blog. My friend said she used to follow a local blogger, in her prior town, where she’d learn all sorts of gardening information from her (when to plant certain things, when to prune them, etc.).

I told my friend that I had thought about blogging but hadn’t done anything about it. Needless to say, the very next day after that phone call, I launched my blog!

How long have you been a Mediavine publisher? How did you first hear about us? What drew you to Mediavine as a partner for display advertising?

I’ve been with Mediavine since August of 2019. I was looking for ways to monetize my blog and I had tried so many different things. Getting started with ads on my site was utterly confusing, until I slowly began to figure things out.

I started with Media.net and I was barely making any money there. Next, I joined Ezoic and it was a nice step up, but I still wasn’t satisfied. I really wanted the elusive holy grail that is Mediavine. After obsessively searching on Google, I ran into many bloggers raving about Mediavine, especially the RPMs and incredible support they provide.

I told myself that as soon as I had enough traffic I would apply to Mediavine. It seemed like a pipe dream at the time because I wasn’t sure where I would muster up the necessary sessions to qualify, but I was elated when I was accepted as a publisher.

My traffic has skyrocketed in the time that I’ve been with Mediavine.

houseplant

Describe your experience with Mediavine. What do you love about working with us?

I’m floored at the level of support Mediavine provides, and constant improvements to help publishers in every way possible. The Facebook Group has been simply outstanding when it comes to answering any and all questions I’ve had so far.

The RPMs are amazing, even with the drop in them during COVID-19, I’m still grateful. The continual rollout of wonderful tools like Trellis (I’m part of the beta testing), the new Dashboard with page-level reporting (which I’m already reaping the benefits from) and the various existing and upcoming plugins are just incredible.

I’m astounded and inspired by all the amazing content creators that I’ve learned from in the Facebook Group — from food to travel bloggers. I have also learned tons from the Theory of Content podcast, as well as from the countless publisher interviews, Teal Talks and so much more! 

The level of support and sheer expertise is really mind boggling. Matthew Howe, a Senior Support Engineer at Mediavine, has been working tirelessly with getting my site onto Trellis. He’s made so many tweaks to my blog that I’ve lost track at this point. He has gone above and beyond any of my expectations. I’ve implemented so many improvements to my blog that I can’t even mention them all, and there is no way I could have done it on my own.

My blogging efforts have definitely been supercharged with Mediavine’s help. Many things that were previously huge obstacles have now been demystified. I really can’t imagine a better place to be!

How has your content strategy changed since COVID-19? 

My blog’s focus is almost exclusively on houseplant care, along with a peppering of other gardening type of posts. I mostly write about the care of individual plants.

With the emergence of COVID-19 and all the ensuing challenges, I wanted to shift my content strategy a little. Instead of just writing about the care of specific plants — which is central to my blog’s success and which I will continue to do — I shifted to creating some how-to type posts. I also created posts geared towards helping and supporting newer “plant parents.”

The millennial generation is crazy about houseplants and online plant ordering has gone through the roof, so I’m trying my best to solve my readers’ problems. I love writing posts where I solve problems that my readers don’t even know they had.

What new content have you specifically created for this time? 

I’m excited about a particular how-to post that is coming soon! Since more and more people are home and growing houseplants — and there are LOTS of people new to houseplant growing — I am trying to write content that is helpful. This comes from knowing my audience well, but sometimes people have problems that they don’t even realize!

Here is an example of this: I recently wrote a post, Houseplants by Mail Mistakes, that went viral on Google Discover. (I wish I knew how!) Since so many people have been buying plants online these days, I wrote a post on what to do with those plants once they receive them in the mail. I have seen many of my readers mishandle plants after they got them in the mail, yet thought they were doing the right thing. My post explains that they’re actually making the situation worse, and I provided solutions for a problem they didn’t even know was an issue.

What existing content is doing well right now? Have you updated it in light of the pandemic?

Posts that solve my readers’ problems are doing very well, but I have many posts about specific plants that are also doing great.

I’ve gained that insight through interacting with my audience and also diligent keyword research. Of course it is a crapshoot sometimes, but it pays to do your research!

My top 10 highest performing posts recently are all about houseplant care

Raffaele Di Lallo of Ohio Tropics with houseplants

What percentage of growth have you seen with the new content you have created or existing content you’ve optimized during this time? 

In the past 30 days, the number of users has increased 54% on my blog. Organic search is up almost 51%, sessions are up 49% and pageviews are up 46%.

The day after I published my most recent post, the one that went viral on Google Discover, my blog traffic had literally doubled. I had my first day with over 10,000 pageviews and I couldn’t believe it! Hopefully someday that will no longer be a one-hit-wonder, as I would like more of those posts.

How are you engaging with your audience during this time? 

I have 131,000 followers and growing on Instagram. I post there daily and interact as much as I can without going insane. I used to do a lot more on Instagram, but I still manage to grow, even though it is at a slower pace now.

I’m focusing a lot more on my blog, since the benefits are much greater. I also communicate weekly with my list of email subscribers, because I’m trying to get more structured and diligent in that area. My Facebook page is trailing behind, but I still post there as well. I have a YouTube page and I post when I can, but I don’t put a huge focus on that. The blog is my top priority.

What is your biggest traffic source and what strategies have you used to make that your top traffic source?

Two words: Keyword research! I can’t emphasize this enough.

Having insight into my readers’ problems and knowing what houseplants are hot right now are also valuable things for me.

Do you have any advice for bloggers on how to pivot their content during this time to try and grow their traffic?

Write content that your readers need now. Is there something that they can do at home currently? Can you make their lives easier in any way with your blog posts?

Also, use the new version of the Mediavine Dashboard. I gained tons of insight into which blog posts have the highest RPMs. You can then take those and make them part of your email subscriber campaign and promote them on social media. This will help to boost your overall RPMs and traffic. I found out that one of my blog posts has a $40 RPM, even now during COVID-19!

Do your keyword research by writing for your readers to solve their problems, not just writing for Google. If you are writing for your readers, solving problems and inspiring them with information that is unique, then you will succeed.

Don’t copy other people; instead, do you. You are unique and there is no one else like you. You’re already a success by gaining enough sessions to be a part of Mediavine, so now is the time to step up your game! Also, look at your top 10 posts and write similar versions of that content, because that has really helped me out a lot!